Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Celebrations abound as the 25th anniversary of Open Studios begins and the Artist District and WCC Peekskill celebrate their 30th year

Open Studios locations, take an “Art Walk”, learn about how the Peekskill’s Artist District, Open Studios and SUNY Westchester Community College Digital Arts Center started in Peekskill
Damico Studio Photo Credit: Peekskill Arts Alliance

This coming Saturday and Sunday, June 1st and June 2nd, Open Studios is celebrating its 25th Silver Anniversary. This Silver Anniversary will feature a wide range of creativity from painting, photography, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, film and clothing to public art. The Peekskill Arts Alliance is looking forward to sharing this incredible experience with visitors, tourists, the surrounding community and our entire city. Open Studios is Peekskill’s trademark annual event where the Peekskill arts community welcomes art lovers, collectors and the general public into their private workspaces. Visit and see works-in-progress and talk to individual artists about their creative inspirations and methods.

Attendees can walk around the PAA Tent Site Gallery pop-up shows located in downtown Peekskill where individual artists display a body of work or visit one of the numerous galleries in downtown Peekskill. Open Artist Galleries include The Artist Spot, The Flat Iron Gallery, H-Art @ Steel Imaginations, New Era Creative Space (NECS), Peekskill Artist Lofts, Jo’s Body Shop and The Third Eye Gallery just to name a few.

See and talk to the over 25 artists opening their studios such as David Abrevaya, Bob and Andrew Barthelmes, Elizabeth Castaldo, Doreen Pagano Halsall, Margaret Steele, SpeakEasy Tattoo, WHADAFUNK Studio and the artist-residents of the Peekskill Artist Lofts.

Visit the “Off Beaten Track” exhibit, featuring the works of 40+ artists at SUNY Westchester Community College-Peekskill (WCC). Check out the art exhibits at the Field Library, Peekskill Coffee House, BeanRunner Café or the brand new art installation, “A Day in the Park” in Pugsley Park by PAA Members. 

“A Day in the Park” Pugsley Park Installation of works by PAA Members Artists

Take a quick trip just outside of the downtown to the North or the East and visit the Hudson Valley MOCA (HVMOCA) on Saturday or the Hat Factory on North Division Street, where visitors can see Peekskill Clay Studios and the exhibit at PranaMoon Yoga or visit the very popular artist thrift reuse store at Retake-Remake.  

In total, over 90+ artists, 24 Studios, and 11 Galleries will be free and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm.

2024 Peekskill Open Studios Promo via the City of Peekskill YouTube page


Visitors can go to the Gazebo in the center of downtown Peekskill to pick up a complimentary map highlighting all the Open Studio attractions and a catalog featuring information on all the PAA Open Studio participating artists. Visitors can also find an online version of the map and catalog on the Peekskill Arts Alliance website to help assist visitors in traveling around Peekskill as easily find galleries and shows using your smartphone. All Open Studio events are free. There is plenty of free parking on the weekends on the street or in the parking garages. Visitors are also encouraged to visit by train via Metro-North.


Take a journey along the “Art Walk” from the Train Station to Downtown Peekskill

Visitors love coming to Peekskill via train on Metro-North’s Hudson Line. Once here, visitors often try to figure out where to go or how to find the center of the downtown. Visitors will no longer have to guess as the Peekskill Arts Alliance has visitors covered in the brand new “Art Walk”. 

The Peekskill Art Walk route. There are still more sculptures and murals to be added to the “Art Walk”. The hope is to be completion by the end of 2024

The “Art Walk” journey begins at the Peekskill Train Station which just celebrated its 150th birthday. After departing the Train Station head one block down the street towards the Standard House. Once at the Standard House, make a quick right then a quick left onto Water Street.

Very quickly, visitors will notice the “Yellow Brick Road” which may have possibly influenced Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum, who attended Peekskill Military Academy in 1868. After passing the Yellow Brick Road, continue heading towards the old Peekskill Brewery and Homestyle Desserts. Grab a quick treat if you wish, but save room for coffee, treats, and amazing art inside and out at the Peekskill Coffee House and the BeanRunner Cafe. If visiting on Saturday morning, start by cheering on the runners of the Peekskill’s Got Pride Color Run starting at 10:00am near Homestyle Bakery and the old Peekskill Brewery. On your way back in the evening, stop by the Rock the Block party at Station Square between Taco Dive Bar and The Central where two band swill be playing starting at 6:00pm. When visiting the Peekskill Coffee House or BeanRunner Cafe, take a seat and enjoy a moment of solace in Peekskill’s Esther Square and enjoy a new art installation by Steve Erenberg.

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  • People enjoying an outdoor concert last summer on Esther Street. (Photo by Jim Striebich)

  • Erenberg artwork on Division St on the Flat Iron Building

  • Erenberg artwork on Esther St on the Flat Iron Building via Peekskill Coffee House Instagram

  • Ca you find the new Erenberg artwork on the Flat Iron Building?

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Continue walking towards the Lincoln Depot Museum and Dain’s Lumber. There you will find a new art installation entitled “The Abolitionists” by Lance Johnson. If visiting on Sunday, visitors will pass by the Westchester Cars & Coffee group meetup from 8:00-100:am where there will be over 100 cars on display. Just last month, the group meetup was visited and then highlighted in a feature article by national magazine, Road and Track.

The Lincoln Depot Museum, the original Peekskill Train Station, is the exact spot where President-elect Abraham Lincoln stopped and made a speech on February 19, 1861. Look to the back of the lawn, and you will notice a beautiful sculpture of Abraham Linlcoln. Between the Lincoln Depot Museum and Dain’s Lumber (one of the oldest continuously running businesses in Peekskill and NYS circa 1848) is McGregor Brook. According to William J. Switala’s book, Underground Railroad in New York and New Jersey, this historic brook was a part of the Underground Railroad that Harriet Tubman, John W. Towot, and other conductors would use and follow to safe houses throughout Peekskill located along along the brook. Safe houses included the Park Street A.M.E. Zion Church, Hawley & Harriet Green’s home, and a tunnel on the property of abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher’s estate. Henry Ward Beecher’s sister was Harriet Beecher Stowe whose book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, detailed the inhumanity and cruelty of slavery to the world while also deepening the hard sectional positions of slavery in the North and the South.  

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  • The Abolitionists at The Lincoln Depot Museum by Lance Johnson

  • “Lincoln in Peekskill” by sculptor Richard Masloski unveiled to the public on October 27, 2007 Photo Credit: Lincoln Depot Museum

  • Underground Railroad in New York and New Jersey by William J Switala

  • Underground Railroad New York Eastern Network Eastern as shown in Underground Railraod in New York and New Jersey by William J Switala

  • Peekskill Mention in Underground Railroad in New York and New Jersey by William J Switala

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Visitors will continue along the “Art Walk” making a right turn and walk up Central Avenue. The brook disappears underground for a 1/4 of a mile and reappears at the top of the road. As visitors stroll up Central Avenue, they will encounter the Arts 10566 Community Art murals entitled “Our Ancestors Moralismo” along the walls of Home Mason Supply. Continue walking up Central Avenue, and visitors will come across “Wind Farm” by Scott Goss in the brand new Central Avenue Parklet. Behind the parklet is the McGregory Brook waterfalls and next to it is the P.E.T.A.L.S. Garden created and tended by the Peekskill Garden Club. Across the street from the P.E.T.A.L.S. Garden is another new art installation that the PAA is hoping will be up before Open Studios entitled, “Did You Hear”. It is a Digital Collaborative mural on panels redesigned from a mural workshop led by Lance Johnson with students at the Peekskill High School and installation designed by Larry D’Amico. 

Wind Farm by Scott Goss
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Click for hyperlink to learn more about the art installation

Just another 100 feet up the road and visitors come up to the corner of Central and Nelson Avenues. From there visitors will be able to see the PAA tents where over 18 artists will be there displaying their works. Before crossing however, turn to and look towards City Hall and view the “Honoring the Public Trust” mural on the side of the Peekskill Police Station designed by Robert Barthelmes. From there visitors will also be able to see the “By the River” mural above the Bruised Apple Book Store, designed by Misha Tyutyunik a.k.a MDOT. The PAA has been diligently working to get up as many installations prior to Open Studios ’24. These two murals have a chance of being placed, however, it is not guaranteed .

Safely cross Nelson Avenue and continue to the PAA Tents. Just past the tents, visitors will find the Harriett Tubman The Beacon of Hope Statue, and the gazebo in the center of the City where Peekskill Arts Alliance Open Studios maps and a catalog can be found detailing each artist and studio that can be found in the City. From there, walk up and down and all around as visitors will find art everywhere within feet of the gazebo. 

Peekskill’s Artist District, revitalization, and Open Studios history

30 years ago, downtown Peekskill reinvented itself as an artist district. In the early 1990’s Peekskill was facing a bleak future after a recession that saw 70 percent, more than two-thirds of the buildings in the downtown area vacant. Facing an urban real estate death spiral, similar to rust belt cities when manufacturing left, there was a need for a bold, creative plan to stem the inevitable demise of this Hudson River city. Mayor Frances Gibbs, the Common Council, the city government, and planning consultant Ralph DiBart, joined together and announced their plan to create an Artist District. The district, with the Paramount being foundation, would help bring an identity to the downtown that was much needed.

The Paramount was an anchor of the Artist District.

Within six months of that press conference declaring the Artist District, 20 artists began living downtown. In late 1992 and early 1993, artists Larry D’Amico and Carla Rae Johnson moved into the newly formed artist district. Soon afterward, Larry and JoAnn Brody helped form the Peekskill Arts Council, now the Peekskill Arts Alliance. Together, working with the newly formed Peekskill Business Improvement District also established by Mayor Gibbs in 1996, they helped create the very first Open Studios weekend  in 1997 where people could see artists working in their spaces. Over a decade to establish, over three administrations, with the addition of additional artist live in spaces including the Artist Lofts on Central Avenue, another Mayor Gibbs project, the Arts District found its footing and took off.  

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  • Newspaper Article from the early days of the Artist District Photo from The Peekskill Museum presents, A Retrospective of Peekskill’s Artist District

  • Newspaper Article from the early days of the Artist District Photo from The Peekskill Museum presents, A Retrospective of Peekskill’s Artist District

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In October of 2023, the Peekskill Museum presented A Retrospective of Peekskill’s Artists District which featured many of the founders of the Peekskill Artis District including Ralph DiBart, Urban Planner and the brainchild behind the idea of an Artist District, Dwight Douglas, former Director of Planning and Development, now serving as a Peekskill Common Council member, and Larry D’Amico, mural and landscape artist, and Carla Rae Johnson one of the very first artists to move in to the newly created Artist District.

The Peekskill Museum presents, A Retrospective of Peekskill's Artist District via Mike Minor video

SUNY Westchester Community College Digital Arts Center in Peekskill celebrates 30 years

It was also 30 years ago in 1994 when Mayor Gibbs, her husband Ed Gibbs, who was deputy county executive at the time, and Dwight Douglas, former Director of Planning and Development, were extremely supportive of bringing Westchester Community College’s Digital Arts Extension to the empty location on North Division Street that once housed Woolworth’s. The idea was sparked not only to bring digital and technological arts studios into the City, but also a way for the local community to have easy access to higher education that was otherwise more than 20 miles away in Valhalla.

Westchester Community College’s Peekskill Extension Center was more than a success, it excelled. Within 10 years, the WCC-Peekskill Extension was doubled in size from 10,000 to 20,000 square feet with the addition of second floor classrooms and student lounge in 2003. The expansion enabled additional class offerings which enabled more local students to access quality education. The Peekskill Extension offers the community a wide array of credit, liberal arts, and humanities courses so that residents of all ages could continue or start college closer to home. 

County Executive Andy Spano, County Legislator George Oros, College President Joseph Hankin, Peekskill Mayor and WCC Trustee John Testa, WCC Board of Trustees Chairman Tim Carey at the opening of the newly expanded Peekskill Satellite campus in 2003.
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The WCC Digital Arts Center in Peekskill quickly became part of the lifeblood of Peekskill and now features 11 state-of-the-art classrooms equipped with multimedia/smart technology, and five colorful post-production studios with more than 75 Apple workstations and 15 Microsoft Surfaces dedicated to digital arts education. 

The WCC Peekskill Extension not only brought a college to the center of Peekskill close to other cultural centers, galleries, and restaurants, it has served thousands of students over the past 30 years educating approximately 1,000 students per year. 

SUNY Westchester Peekskill YouTube page

Many of the students that attended the WCC Peekskill Digital Arts Campus have gone on to become extremely successful entrepreneurs and business owners such as John Gutierrez. Gutierrez attended the Center for Digital arts at Westchester Community College in Peekskill taking graphics classes in 2010. The courses set his foundation and his inner ambition set him on a journey to become proprietor of the “Whadafunk” clothing brand. Today, Gutierrez’ Whadafunk brand of streetwear clothing is sold nationally, including at Zumiez, a lifestyle brand retailer with 150 stores across the country as featured in the Peekskill Herald in Peekskill brings da funk with nationally-known streetwear brand

In a full circle swing that brings our readers back to the Open Studios Silver Anniversary, Gutierrez produces his WhatdaFunk product line out of a space at 901 South Street which will also be open during the Open Studios weekend. 901 South Street is the same building artist Larry D’Amico rehabilitated when he first moved into Peekskill 30 years ago, when Peekskill first established the Artist District. Larry was one of the original founders of Open Studios and the Peekskill Arts Alliance and who 30 years later is still a vital part of the artist community, helping the next generation of artists in Peekskill, and continuing to make Peekskill the Arts Capital Community of Westchester County.

About the Contributor
Dave Mueller
As a Peekskill native, Dave is thrilled to be working with the Peekskill Herald showcasing featured calendar events. A 1999 graduate of PHS, he remembers reading and enjoying the original weekly print edition of the Peekskill Herald every Thursday. He especially liked the political stories, local features and sports coverage when it was written by Peekskill Runner columnist Jack Burns who always managed to weave history into the running times. An avid hiker, he enjoys exploring the local trails as well as the concrete ones in his job as a conductor for Metro North Railroad. He’s a former teacher and co-founder of the Friends of the Peekskill Dog Park, where he frequently can be found with his Koda. He’s happy to be part of the Herald’s growth as the source of local news for Peekskill and looks forward to highlighting a few of many of the events and happenings in Peekskill and the surrounding communities. Reach Dave at [email protected]